It was fitting irony that, last week, after attending a swank party at an upscale auto dealership in Toronto, my car decided to blow up.
I was cruising home well after midnight, my favourite time to drive. The roads are quiet, the sun is down and rolling the windows down usually greets you with a cool breeze. All was well.
About 20 minutes from home, my engine light started flashing. "Nothing to get worried about," I said out loud, trying to convince myself that I wasn't in for a fuck-up.
My father's mantra has always been, "Just get it home," no matter if it's your car that's broken down, your body that's broken or pretty much anything else. So, I drove on.
A few minutes later, the engine light stopped flashing, and stayed on solid.
A few minutes after that, I noticed the heat gauge spike. The engine chugged and the transmission moaned. It was as if the car was having a heart attack; it was sluggish, slow to respond. If I'd had Aspirin with me, I probably would have thrown some in the gas tank.
"No, no no no. You bitch!" I yelled at the dash. "Don't fucking do this to me!"
But it was not meant to be. I threw in the towel, pulled down a deserted side street, and killed the engine. A quick inspection under the hood confirmed my fears. There was indeed something wrong.
The entire contents of the cooling system had vanished. No hoses were blown, no fittings let loose. The coolant had simply disappeared somewhere, at some point.
I called home for a ride/tow from my Dad, who showed up a few minutes later. We topped up the coolant with water, thinking we'd bring it back to life. I jumped behind the wheel, turned the key...and nothing happened.
Klonk. I tried again. Klonk klonk. The engine refused to come out of it's heart attack mode. After over 400,000km of somewhat rocky service, it had drawn it's last breath.
Dad towed me home, me with the windows rolled down and the radio on, riding along in neutral. A few minutes passed and out of nowhere I started to laugh. I mean, how fucking ridiculous was this? I'm having my last ride...er, rites...at 3am, with the windows down and the radio going. I didn't want to think of how crappy it was and the million problems the situation introduced.
I just ignored the crap and ran with the completely wacky thought of my last ride in the only car I've ever really called sort-of-my-own.
Thankfully, I've got a borrowed set of wheels for the rest of the week. After that...well, I'm not really sure what the future holds. If I were living in Toronto, I wouldn't really be pressed to find a more permanent car arrangement. Living out in small-town-bum-fuck-nowhere, if you don't have a ride, you don't go anywhere. Seriously, anywhere.
So now I'm doing the rounds trying to figure out who'll screw me less, a bank loan, financing from a dealer, leasing...
I'm not going to say I'll miss the old wreck, but I hear you always have a soft spot for your first. And while getting a new car is high on the 'awesome!' index, it gives me a pretty dim financial future.
At least I'll always remember my last ride, the summer breeze and the after-midnight radio as I cruised off into the night...